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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Movie Review

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Movie Review

Rating: C- (Below Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

With Maleficent, the filmmakers made the curious decision to change one of Disney Animation’s most famous villains into a sympathetic heroine who actually befriends Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty. The result was a film that was high on spectacle, but felt like a betrayal of such a dynamic villainess. For the sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, they have doubled down on what didn’t work in its predecessor. However, the most unusual creative decision is how Maleficent doesn’t have much screentime in her own movie. She is ultimately pushed aside to make way for the new characters and mythology introduced in this chapter.

At the start, it seems like the film will be a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scenario with Maleficent meeting Aurora’s potential in-laws. This is merely the set-up before the film goes in all sorts of story directions for the remainder of the runtime. In less than two hours, it attempts to give development to Aurora, Maleficent, Prince Philip, Queen Ingrith, the magical raven Diaval, a scientist and a few dark fairies. There is also a lot of intrigue surrounding disappearing magical creatures and it’s too much plot to follow. As a result, most everyone feels thin and not interesting enough to care about. The most compelling characters end up being a pair of cute little forest creatures who are captured and one almost wishes Mistress of Evil was about them.

The movie also struggles with avoiding the corniness of its dialogue. Some leeway can probably be given as this is a fairy tale, but several of Disney’s animated classics (including Sleeping Beauty) were able to feel sincere and genuine. The most unsubtle line of dialogue in Mistress of Evil comes close to winking at the camera. Despite her name being in the title, Maleficent isn’t given too much to do. She primarily serves as a plot device and there are large chunks of the film that aren’t even focused on her. There’s a problem when forgetting the title character is a frequent occurrence. The society of dark fairies she meets is allowed to participate in the action more, although their game plan against the kingdom is a little confusing.

As underwhelming as the story is, there is at least some degree of imagination. Whatever amount of money was spent on the budget comes through on screen and director Joachim Ronning knows his way around sweeping shots of this medieval world. We get some impressive visuals of the enchanted forests and grand castles, while the creature design also displays plenty of creativity. Even as the climax runs far too long, Ronning does pull out the stops to make sure we have some colourful imagery to look at. Meanwhile, the actors aren’t given much material to work with, although it’s always a pleasure seeing Warwick Davis play a major role.

Watching Maleficent, the big question came from why Disney would choose to soften one of their most renowned and popular villains. This sequel is even more perplexing in where the filmmakers choose to take the character. Angelina Jolie is oddly sidelined in a movie she herself has a producing credit on. The final result has far too much going on and little of it is truly compelling. It’s been a mixed result seeing Disney look to their animated catalogue for inspiration and the Maleficent movies are the most disappointing of the lot.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison